In Potomac Falls, close neighbors are widely spaced

Amy Reinink - Houses in Potomac Falls sit on parcels of two acres or more, along streets lined with mature trees.

When you ask Potomac Falls residents why they moved to the neighborhood in Potomac, they’ll probably tell you they were drawn to the huge lots — each house sits on two or more acres — and proximity to the C&O Canal National Historical Park, which serves as its western boundary.

If you were to ask longtime Potomac Falls residents why they have remained in the neighborhood — in some cases for multiple generations — they’d tell you it’s because their neighbors are warm, social and convivial despite the big lots and long driveways dividing them.

(Gene Thorp/The Washington Post)

“Sometimes, people move to a neighborhood where the lots are big because they don’t want to have anything to do with their neighbors,” said Dan Sullivan, 47, a stay-at-home dad who has lived in Potomac Falls for three years. “It’s true that it’s private, physically speaking. But at the same time, there is a real palpable desire for social interaction, and a real cohesive, close knit-community, which we would not have anticipated before moving in.”

Sullivan is one of many Potomac Falls residents to tout the neighborhood’s many social events, which include get-togethers at nearby Old Angler’s Inn; informal potluck meals or coffee klatches at residents’ homes, and annual events sponsored by the Potomac Falls Homeowners Association such as the annual Fourth of July picnic, which is often attended by more than 200 people.

“When someone new moves in, it doesn’t take long for them to get to know their neighbors,” said Katie Clark Glasgow, 56, a senior financial adviser for Merrill Lynch who moved to the neighborhood with her husband, Glenn, in 1986. “There’s usually a knock on the door with brownies and an invitation to some of the social events we have going on.”

Glenn Glasgow, 55, first moved to the neighborhood at age 14, when his family bought one of the first houses built by W.C. & A.N. Miller. He said the sense of community in the 262-home neighborhood off Falls Road in Potomac has been present since the beginning, even if many of the houses are changing.

“I recently talked to an older gentleman who lived near Potomac Falls when the first model home was built, and he says he told his wife, ‘We have to go over there and see what a $100,000 house looks like,’ ” said Glenn Glasgow, who owns a handyman business. “It’s funny to see people today building bigger, more magnificent homes to replace what I as a teenager viewed as the most magnificent homes I’d ever seen.”

Though some residents have torn down the neighborhood’s original houses — mostly brick Colonials or traditional farmhouse-style homes — some residents moved to Potomac Falls specifically because the houses were low-key and not ostentatious.

“We are very much against the McMansion-type look, and when we moved here from New Jersey 10 years ago, we found many of the neighborhoods in Virginia to be overbuilt,” said Ruth Suttle, 52, president of the Potomac Falls Homeowners Association. “Some friends suggested this neighborhood, and we felt a tremendous sense of relief to drive in and see the kind of simple, understated homes we were looking for.”

Those homes come with a hefty price tag, with an average sale price of roughly $2 million in the past 12 months, according to Nancy Shahin Itteilag of Long & Foster.

Residents are paying not only for the lot size but also for the proximity to shops and restaurants in Potomac Village a couple of miles to the northeast and to the C&O park directly to the west.

“I’m an avid equestrian, and what impressed me so much about the neighborhood the first time I saw it was how quiet and serene it was — how it had more of a country, equestrian feel than that of a major city or suburb,” said Alissa Winkler, 43, a stay-at-home mom who moved to the neighborhood with her husband, Lawrence, 11 years ago.

“Being close to the park means I’m surrounded by incredible woods and wildlife, from falcons to foxes. And the houses are so far apart, it’s like you’re in your own little oasis every time you go home.”

Winkler said the peaceful setting means her kids, Marielle, 8, and Preston, 9, can roam around the neighborhood at will.

“You see kids all around the neighborhood exploring and playing outside in the woods, just like I did when I was little,” Wink­ler said.

Sullivan said he and his wife, Maggy, moved to Potomac Falls from Bethesda’s Westgate neighborhood in part because of the advantages Potomac Falls offered a young family like theirs.

“Bethesda was great, but like many growing families, we faced the decision to either improve the home we had or move,” Sullivan said. “When we started looking around for a home that would accommodate our family, we were shocked by how much that would cost us in Bethesda.”

They found that they could get more house for their money in Potomac Falls, and they found that living there allowed them to have the same wide array of school choices as they did in Bethesda.

“Potomac Elementary is walkable from here, and the middle school and high school aren’t far, either,” Sullivan said. “There are lots of other private and parochial schools right in our immediate vicinity.”

Sullivan was one of several residents to say the lack of easy Metro access is a downside to living in Potomac Falls — the closest stations are a 20-minute drive away.

Still, Sullivan said his wife’s commute to a downtown law firm “is not substantially longer than it was from Bethesda, even though we’re now seven or eight miles further past the Beltway.”

“The ease of access to Clara Barton Parkway is great, and you get to live in a neighborhood that’s physically beautiful, with a magnificent tree canopy and lots of space for kids to run around outside,” Sullivan said. “It’s an almost bucolic feeling, and you don’t have to sacrifice access to normal amenities you’d find in Bethesda or even in downtown D.C.”

Amy Reinink is a freelance writer.

ZIP CODE: 20854

BOUNDARIES: Roughly, Stanmore Drive to the north, Falls Road to the east, MacArthur Boulevard to the south and the C&O Canal National Historical Park to the west.

SCHOOLS: Potomac Elementary, Herbert Hoover Middle and Winston Churchill High.

HOME SALES: In the past 12 months, six houses sold, at prices ranging from $1.03 million to $3.275 million, according to Nancy Shahin Itteilag of Long & Foster. Four are on the market, which prices from $1.85 million to $3.2 million. One house is under contract, for $1.6 million.

WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: C&O Canal National Historical Park.

WITHIN 10 MINUTES BY CAR: Shopping at Potomac Village.

TRANSIT: Buses that serve Metrorail stations on the Red Line run along Falls Road.

 
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